WASHINGTON — A significant reliance on private dollars to help finance public infrastructure projects is not a funding system suitable for rural parts of the country, a group of governors told reporters after meeting with President Trump on Feb. 27.
The governors convened downtown for the National Governors Association’s winter conference to emphasize their hope for more federal dollars to advance major repair work along freight corridors and on major bridges.
“Public-private partnerships are a great tool, and I think they have to be embraced,” Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said at the association’s closing press conference. “There’s got to be additional revenues, and states will have to come up with additional resources. The federal government will have to come up with additional resources.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) echoed Hickenlooper’s concern over P3s and also indicated his state would continue adopting private partnerships, absent a sustainable revenue stream for transportation from Congress. Virginia transportation projects sought private capital for the Capital Beltway’s rapid access “hot” lanes. The state also tapped private expertise to build, maintain and operate lanes along Interstate 66.
“Until they come up with a dedicated source of funding going forward, it’s going to make it very difficult” to address big-ticket infrastructure projects, McAuliffe, the association’s chairman, said at the same press conference. When asked whether Congress should increase taxes on fuel to generate additional revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund, McAuliffe said that was not a decision for him to make.
Lawmakers argue P3s that issue tolls along rural roadways would lack the requisite traffic volume for achieving meaningful investment returns.
In the Feb. 27 meeting with governors at the White House, Trump said his speech to Congress would include a “big statement” to “make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure.”
“We spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, and we have potholes all over our highways and our roads,” Trump said, adding, “I have a friend who is in the trucking business. He said, 'My trucks are destroyed going from New York to Los Angeles.' ”